It has been interesting noting the financial challenges that Marks and Spencer are going through, not least because their troubles seem to be playing out in our own lives.
M&S is a British icon. Many people, especially of mum’s generation, will not buy a piece of underwear from anywhere else and their food still remains a treat. So seeing them being circled by sharks in the takeover market is bitter sweet.
I too have been an M&S customer for many years, but not so much lately, and mum’s story bears out why. Mum loves the store and for many years has bought much of her clothing and lots of ‘treat food’ there. She also nearly always uses it for gifts.
As a pensioner she can still afford M&S due to dad’s pension management years ago. Not something mum valued at the time but which has meant she can still afford treats. M&S gifts also prove to be a good present for her; dad gave her a £100 gift voucher for Christmas.
This however is where the demise of the once great store enters the story. It seems mum can’t find anything in the store to spend the money on!
She is quite stylish for an 80 year old and has good taste in clothes so the fact that she hasn’t been able to find anything since December rather speaks of the current collection. The voucher has been burning a hole in her pocket. “I can’t find anything to spend it on”, she complains. “The shop has gone to the dogs.”
On top of that the voucher keeps getting stolen. Well, that’s mum’s story! Of course we all know about mum’s stories of things been stolen, they usually turn up some days later after the whole family and most of the neighbours have been accused.
So the M&S voucher will be ‘stolen’ for a few days and then it will turn up again amidst much joy and determination to go and spend it.
To make matters worse, or better, depending on your view, dad (via one of us) gave mum another voucher for a similar amount for her birthday and this is where the true extent of the M&S demise becomes really obvious.
The voucher was purchased over the internet and extra was paid to ensure it arrived on the specific day of her 80th birthday. Delivery guaranteed!
On her birthday I discretely asked mum what she had received. She recited a long list of cards, chocolates and flowers, including those from the family.
Good, I thought. They all arrived ok. Then I realised there had been no mention of the M&S voucher. After fishing around for a few minutes and mum getting increasingly irritated with my questions I asked outright if she had received anything from dad.
“No”, she said “you will have to ask him about it.” “I know he sent it, I’ll sort it out”, I said.
I quickly got on the phone to the M&S helpline which I was pleased to find operated over the weekend. The person on the other end said they would refund the extra I paid for specific day delivery.
“Not good enough”, said I! “This was my mother’s 80th birthday present. It is both embarrassing and upsetting that she hasn’t received it.”
Eventually he put me on to a manager. The manager was very sorry, confirmed the refund of the delivery charge and said he would arrange for the local shop to send flowers and chocolates to mum the very next day, as compensation.
Ok, not a great situation but they have promised to made amends.
So imagine my horror when I called mum and asked again, discreetly and then increasingly directly, in an effort to establish if the voucher and/or the compensation had arrived.
But no! No flowers, no chocolates, no voucher and no sorry note from Marks and Spencer.
Now, I hadn’t told her why I was asking as it would make the whole birthday present mess even worse. But really, what has happened to our British institutions? Can’t M&S even deliver an apology?
Find out the truth of what happened. Coming soon…